"A Clear Future for our River"

Harriet Alvis

Managing woody debris in rivers

BART regularly receive emails from local community groups who are doing fantastic work around their stretch of river but are unsure of how to deal with woody debris within the channel. Many people are prone to remove it in order to ‘tidy’ rivers, however woody debris is a vital component of our watercourses and its removal can severely degrade their health.

This report gives some fantastic advice on how to manage woody debris:



Possible cases for selective removal can include:

  • Debris accumulating on bridges and culverts, potentially resulting in localised flooding
  • For navigation
  • For canoeing


If you are a community group or landowner working alongside a river and would like some advice on what you can do to improve habitat and water quality, please get in touch with BART: info@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Somerset Frome Sediment Pathways project update

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, BART has been busy on the upper Somerset Frome since October working on our Diffuse Pollution Sediment Pathways Project. Sediment entering watercourses can have a detrimental effect on aquatic ecology, including fish and invertebrates.  This project has used predominantly field surveys to identify where sediment is entering watercourses in the upper Somerset Frome catchment and to determine the sources of this sediment.

The survey period of the project draws to a close at the end of March and we have so far visited 191 locations on the upper Somerset Frome looking for potential sediment pathways. Sediment pathways have been recorded at over 110 locations on the main river Frome and its tributaries including Redford Water, the Rodden Brook and the Marston Brook. At each location the source of the sediment pathway has been determined where possible and a diffuse pollution grade has been allocated to identify the severity of the pollution pathway.  Photo 1 shows an example of sediment entering the Rodden brook via a pipe during a wet weather event.

Pipe discharging into the Rodden Brook

Pipe discharging into the Rodden Brook


The most common, and sometimes very severe pollution pathways seen as part of this project have included poaching and trampling by cattle and horses (photo 2), muddy farm tracks, gateways and yards, maize grown to the edge of watercourses with very little buffer zone (photo 3), discharging pipes and road run off. The most severe pollution pathways have been re-visited during or shortly after heavy rain to collect further evidence.


Poaching and soil compaction

Poaching and soil compaction


Lack of maize buffer resulting in run-off into the Rodden Brook

Lack of buffer alongside a maize field resulting in run-off into the Rodden Brook

Alongside the field surveys the Somerset Frome project included a public engagement campaign to increase local awareness of the issues surrounding erosion risk and diffuse pollution and to build stronger relationships with the landowners surrounding the river Frome. As part of this work a farmers’ lunch was held on 9th March 2017 in the upper Frome area. This lunch brought together local farmers, BART and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) to discuss sediment pathway issues in the catchment and to encourage partnership work in the future.

Thank you to all interested individuals and organisations who have been involved in the project and sent in information to help us prioritise areas to visit. This work will be written up in April and the final report will include a diffuse pollution grade map and recommendations for future work so watch this space!

NEW 2017 Riverfly training sessions

Thanks to funding from Big Lottery Fund‘s Awards for All programme, BART are pleased to announce that we will be running 4 new Riverfly Partnership training sessions. These one day sessions will provide participants with the skills needed to monitor aquatic invertebrates on a monthly basis as indicators of water quality. More information available here: http://www.bristolavonriverstrust.org/what-we-do/riverfly_monitoring/

All sessions are free, will run from 10am-4pm and will be filled up on a first come, first served basis.

– Lacock, Wiltshire: 28th April
– Batheaston, Bath: 11th May
– Freshford, Somerset: 20th May
– Chew Magna, Somerset: 25th May

If you are interested in attending a session, please email harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org



Celebrating #WorldWetlandsDay for the eel

This #WorldWetlandsDay, some of the BART Team will be spending the day at Steart Marshes in Somerset continuing a vitally important project to monitor population levels of the European eel in this important wetland. This 2 week project, led by Westcountry Rivers Trust and funded by the Environment Agency, will assess how the eel use the Steart as important feeding zones, life habitats or as part of their migratory route.

Opened in 2014, Steart Marshes is managed by the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and the Environment Agency and has been labelled as ‘a wild, wetland landscape for the future that helps people and wildlife adapt to climate change.’ Rising sea levels are predicted to completely flood thousands of hectares of saltmarsh and mudflats over the next 50 years. At some places, such as Steart Marshes, it is possible to realign the coastline, allowing vital new saltmarsh to form. As with all wetlands, the area provides habitat for a rich mix of wetland wildlife including otters, egrets, owls waders and wildfowl and its creeks are a nursery for the fry of important fish stocks. Not only this, but the habitat is a vital carbon storage area, absorbing tonnes of climate-polluting carbon as it matures.

We will update on the success of the project as it unfolds but we are pleased to have found the first evidence of eels using 2 different habitats within the site so far. We were joined in these findings by a familiar face from TV – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who came to learn more about Westcountry Rivers Trusts and BART’s conservation and research efforts. We look forward to seeing the plight of the eel on our screens in 2018 as part of Hugh’s new series exploring the Westcountry!



Setting fyke nets in the managed intertidal habitat


BART Project Officer Harriet meets Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


We got one! Hugh and Scott from Westcountry Rivers Trust admire a yellow eel found at Steart.

Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Project

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, BART will be working with 8 Riverfly monitors, 5 community groups, 5 schools and 5 farmers to monitor chemical water quality in their local rivers throughout the catchment over the next year.

This monitoring is testing for phosphates and nitrates with the global research project Freshwater Watch. Although naturally occurring in our rivers, concentrations of these elements can be increased by both agricultural and urban run-off and can lead to harmful algal blooms which strip waterbodies of oxygen and result in fish kills. Some of you may already have conducted Freshwater Watch monitoring as part of the hugely successful WaterBlitz 2016 event but this is a further opportunity for people to monitor phosphates, nitrates and turbidity in their local river. This biological and chemical monitoring will provide invaluable data to pick up local issues and aid us in directing future conservation work to improve our rivers.

Details on how to sign up will be released shortly but for now you can register your interest by signing up to the newsletter here.



The project is already proving very popular! Two pupils from Sherston School show their findings from the Sherston Avon.





BA Catchment Partnership